Obando y Bravo, Miguel (1926–)

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Obando y Bravo, Miguel (1926–)

Miguel Obando y Bravo was the archbishop of Managua, Nicaragua, from 1970 to 2005. A member of the Salesian religious congregation, Obando, born on February 2, 1926, was consecrated auxiliary bishop of Matagalpa in 1968 and then became archbishop of Managua. In 1985 Pope John Paul II named him the first and only cardinal in Central America; many regarded the pope's decision as an effort to strengthen Obando's hand against the Sandinista revolutionary government.

During the 1970s Obando and other bishops criticized the Somoza dictatorship, but the National Guard's dubbing him "comandante Miguel" was not accurate; he was more aligned with the oligarchy's opposition to Somoza than with the Sandinistas' revolutionary struggle. During hostage-taking actions by the Sandinistas in 1974 and 1978, Obando served as mediator between the Sandinistas and the government. After the 1979 takeover by the Sandinistas, Obando turned against them, objecting to their Marxism and secularism. In the late 1980s he continued his role as a mediator, this time between the Sandinista government and the U.S.-supported contras. In the 1990 elections he supported the winning United Nicaraguan Opposition (UNO), led by Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, and in the early 1990s he served as a verifier of the peace accords between her government and groups that were continuing paramilitary activity.

During Obando's tenure as archbishop there were bitter conflicts within the church. Many Christian-based communities, which supported the Sandinista revolutionary government as a means toward greater justice for the poor, criticized Obando as a supporter of the violent counterrevolution; his defenders considered him a champion of freedom. His resignation from the post of archbishop did not remove him from the realm of controversy. In 2004, the year before his resignation, he held a mass to honor the memory of those killed during the wars of the 1970s and 1980s, publicly forgiving the Sandinistas. In 2006 Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega won the presidential election, returning him to power for the first time since 1990, and reconciled with the Catholic Church. He then named Obando y Bravo head of a Peace and Reconciliation Committee, a move regarded by some as politically expedient for both leaders.

See alsoNicaragua; United States-Latin American Relations.


Roger N. Lancaster, Thanks to God and the Revolution (1988).

Irene Selser, Cardenal Obando (1989).

Miguel Obando y Bravo, Agonía en el bunker, 2d ed. (1990).

Michael Dodson and Laura Nuzzi O'Shaughnessy, Nicaragua's Other Revolution (1990).

Joseph E. Mulligan, The Nicaraguan Church and the Revolution (1991).

Additional Bibliography

Urtasun, Domingo. Miguel Obando Bravo, Cardenal por la paz. Managua: Editorial Hispamer, 1994.

                                 Joseph E. Mulligan